For members


Your key questions answered about the Schengen area’s 90-day rule

The EU/Schengen area's '90-day' rule is a complicated one that causes much confusion for travellers - here we answer some of the most common questions from readers of The Local.

Your key questions answered about the Schengen area's 90-day rule

The Schengen ’90-day’ rule applies to non-EU/EEA citizens, including Britons, and limits access to the EU’s Schengen zone to 90 days in every 180 day period. Anyone who wants to stay longer than this will need to apply for a national visa of the country they are visiting. 

Not all citizens of non-EU/EEA countries benefit from the visa-free 90 days. Some nationalities must apply for a visa for any visit to an EU country, even just a one-week holiday. But non-EU citizens including the British, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders do benefit from it.

The limit of 90 days in every 180 gives you a total of six months per year within the Schengen zone, so for tourists or people who want to visit family or friends its perfectly adequate – the people who tend to have problems with it are second-home owners and those who work on short-term contracts in the EU.

The Schengen area currently includes all EU states apart from Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus although the latter three states intend to join. It also includes the non-EU states Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland (EFTA). Croatia was allowed to join the Schengen area late last year.

You can find a full explanation of how the rule works HERE, and answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions from readers of The Local below.

Does the limit apply to the whole Schengen area?

This is one aspect that frequently catches people out – the 90-day limit refers to the entire Schengen area. So if, for example, you spend 88 days at your second home in Spain you won’t have enough time allocation left for a long-weekend in Paris.

What counts as a ‘day’?

Any time spent in EU/Schengen territory counts as a single day, technically even a couple of minutes. So if you take the Eurostar from London to Paris and then go straight to the airport for a flight to New York, that counts as one day from your allowance.

Do I have to spend 90 days outside the Schengen?

Exactly how to calculate the 90 days causes problems for many. The 90 days can be taken as either one long visit or multiple short ones, and are calculated as a rolling clock.

You can find a full explanation of how to calculate the allowance HERE – but the short version is that at any time of the year, you need to be able to count back 180 days, and within those 180 days not have spent more than 90 of them in the EU/Schengen area.

You may have heard that once you reach 90 you must leave the EU and cannot return for 90 days.

READ ALSO: How to calculate your Schengen 90-day allowance

This is in fact only the case if you actually reach your 90-day limit. So those that stay for a full 90 days consecutively would then have to leave the Schengen area for 90 days, before they can return.

Most people who make multiple short visits find it best not to go above 85 or so days, meaning that they have a couple of days ‘in hand’ for emergencies. They do not then have to spend 90 days outside the EU to “reset the clock”, but can return once they have enough days within the previous 180 period.

What if there’s a strike and I can’t leave in time?

Transport strikes are not unusual in Europe, especially France, but if your plane, train or ferry is cancelled it could lead to you overstaying your 90 days.

The best advice is to keep a couple of days in hand, just in case.

If you do end up accidentally overstaying, then the ‘force majeur‘ rule applies – essentially, you need to be able to prove that it was impossible for you to leave the country on time, which might be difficult as even during a strike period there is usually some transport running, even if it is complicated and expensive to change your travel plans.

What if I live in the EU?

If you are a non-EU/EEA national and your are resident in an EU country – with a visa or residency permit – then clearly the 90-day rule does not apply to your country of residence.

It does, however, apply once you travel to another EU country. So if you live in France and like to spend long holidays in Spain and Italy, then you need to keep track of your 90 days.

In practice, there is usually little in the way of border controls when you are travelling within the EU so it’s unlikely that your passport will be stamped or even checked. However, technically the rules does apply.

What are the penalties for over staying?

If you have over-stayed your 90 days you can be fined, deported and banned from re-entry to the EU.

In practice, enforcement varies between countries and most countries keep the toughest penalties for people who have overstayed for many months or even years, or who are working illegally.

READ ALSO What happens if you overstay your 90-day limit?

The most likely scenario for people who have over-stayed for a short time is a fine – French authorities have been issuing €198 fines to over-stayers – and a stamp in the passport flagging the person as an over-stayer. This stamp will likely lead to added complications on future trips, and can make getting a visa more difficult.

What if I get a visa?

People who want to spend more than 90 days in every 180 in the EU/Schengen area will need to get a visa.

However, there is no such thing as an ‘EU visa’ that allows you unlimited access to the bloc. You will need to get a national visa for the country where you spend the most time.

You can then continue to use your 90-day limit to visit other countries within the EU.

All countries have different rules on visas, but for most people who want to spend long periods in the EU without actually moving there, a short-stay visitor visa is the best option.

What if I’m married to an EU citizen? 

Citizens of EU and Schengen zone countries benefit from EU freedom of movement, so are not constrained by the 90-day rule. This, however, does not extend to non-EU spouses.

If you want to spend more than 90 days in the Schengen zone, you will still need a visa (or look to obtain EU citizenship through marriage).

What if I get a new passport?

People travelling under the 90-day rule usually have their passports stamped on entry and exit, in order to keep track of their 90 days.

However passports are also scanned on entry and exit, so a record exists beyond the passport page with its stamp. Therefore getting a new passport does not restart your 90 days, no matter that all the pages are lovely and blank.

What will EES and ETIAS change?

This brings us onto EES, the EU’s new system of border control which involves extra checks at the border – including fingerprints and facial scans – and automatic scanning of passports.

The implementation date has been postponed several times – it’s now due in 2024 – but this will make it harder for over-stayers to slip through the net.

Find a full explanation of the new system HERE.

Could this change for second-home owners?

Definitely the most-asked question at The Local is whether some kind of special deal may be forthcoming for second-home owners.

All we can say for certain is that there are no plans currently in place, and as the 90-day rule is an EU one it would have to be discussed at an EU level.

Individual countries could choose to introduce a special visa for second-home owners, but this still wouldn’t be the same as the paperwork free stays that EU citizens enjoy.

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For members


KEY POINTS: How Germany’s long-distance train services will change next year

Deutsche Bahn will update the train timetable at the end of 2023. The new plan includes more connections between cities and additional night trains. But the service won't get any more punctual and it will likely get more expensive.

KEY POINTS: How Germany's long-distance train services will change next year

What’s happening?

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn has published its 2024 timetable which will kick in this December. 

And there’s some good news: the operator is increasing long-distance services, particularly on the routes between Berlin and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and between Berlin and Munich.

But the bad news is that the chronic unreliability of long-distance trains will not change for the time being. Plus rail customers in Germany have to prepare for higher prices.

READ ALSO: How did train travel in Germany get so bad?

“With the 2024 timetable, we are offering our passengers more new connections than we have had in 20 years,” said DB board member Michael Peterson on Friday.

Here’s a look at the major changes at a glance:

– Berlin-NRW: With an additional, two-hourly ICE (high speed) line between Berlin and Cologne via Wuppertal, a long-distance train will run between the capital and Hanover every 30 minutes. According to DB, the number of seats available on the entire route will increase by 20 to 25 percent. 

– Berlin-Munich: There will also be a half-hourly service between Berlin and Munich from December, while the Sprinter connection will be operated once an hour in the future. The Sprinter also travels between Nuremberg and Berlin three times a day in each direction without stopping. The travel time on the route is being reduced to as little as three hours and 45 minutes in some cases.

An ICE long-distance train leaves Munich Hauptbahnhof.

An ICE long-distance train leaves Munich Hauptbahnhof. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

– Nightjet service: From December, the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) will operate a night train connection between Berlin and Paris and Berlin and Brussels. The offer will be initially available three times a week. From October 2024, the Nightjet will operate every day. Deutsche Bahn discontinued its own night train service six years ago. However, several routes in Germany continued to be operated by ÖBB. Now the two firms want to expand their cooperation.

READ ALSO: What to know about the planned new cross-border train services between Germany and Austria

– Regionally, there will also be new services between Leipzig, Jena and Nuremberg. In future, five IC connections per day will be offered through the Saale Valley, DB said. For the first time, Magdeburg will have a connection to Hamburg as well as more direct connections to Berlin and Rostock.

– The timetable applies from December 10th and ticket sales for the new services begin on October 11th. So keep this in mind if you’re booking for the Christmas period. 

What about prices?

The timetable change in December will also likely bring higher prices for long-distance trains as inflation has continued to increase.

“Of course, we have to think about our fares in view of the general price development,” said DB’s Peterson. “We will inform passengers about this in good time in October.”

Why won’t punctuality improve?

Anyone travelling on trains regularly in Germany will be aware that punctuality is a major problem. 

And unfortunately, this won’t improve next year with the new timetable, according to rail bosses. 

The main reason, according to DB, is problems with the overloaded and ageing rail network, as well as several construction sites that are required.

Last year, almost one in three long-distance rail travellers reached their destination at least 15 minutes late.

“In 2024, too, we will have to ask our passengers to be a little more patient than they and we would like,” said Peterson. “But we will begin the general renovation of the rail network next year.”

It will begin with the modernisation of the so-called Riedbahn between Frankfurt and Mannheim, which will last until 2030. DB said the Riedbahn is one of the busiest routes in Europe.

Better reliability of long-distance services can be expected from 2025, Peterson said.